US Special Operations Command is upgrading its gunships

  • US Special Operations Command recently awarded a $700 million contract for countermeasure systems for its AC-130J gunships and MC-130J airlifters.
  • The AC-130J provides close air support and the MC-130J is mainly an infiltration and refueling aircraft, and the upgrades will allow them to better fend off enemy radar and missiles.
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The US Special Operations Command (USSOCOM) will be upgrading its fleet of AC-130J Ghostrider and MC-130J Commando II aircraft with the addition of countermeasures systems against air and ground threats.

Last week, SOCOM awarded Sierra Nevada Corporation (SNC) a $700,000,000 contract for the development and procurement of Radio Frequency Countermeasure (RFCM) systems. The RFCM system upgrades will enhance the aircraft's ability to fend off enemy radar detection and missiles from both the air and land. The countermeasure systems, moreover, will help the aircraft identify threats more effectively and also bolster its geolocation capabilities.

The AC-130J Ghostrider and MC-130J Commando II are operated by the Air Force Special Operations Command. The former is primarily a close-air-support platform, whereas the latter is mainly an infiltration and air-refueling aircraft.

The AC-130J Ghostrider can also conduct air interdiction and armed reconnaissance. Aside from its clandestine infiltration and refueling capabilities, the MC-130J Commando II is sometimes deployed in support of psychological operations by airdropping leaflets. The aircraft platform has been used extensively in this role during the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS) in Iraq and Syria.

In a press release, Bob Horky, the senior vice president for Sierra Nevada Corporation's Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance, Aviation and Security business area said that "We are excited to expand our solutions for SOF warfighters. The aircraft they operate need the protection RFCM provides."

In the same press release, SNC states that it's approach to aircraft survivability relies on "full platform integration leveraging platform datalinks, integrated processing, and common tactical display systems." To ensure peak performance, SNC used electromagnetic and aerodynamic modeling expertise.

SNC is going to intergrate Northrop Grumman's RFCM system on the aircraft.

In addition to the actual systems, the contract includes RFCM system engineering services, logistics support, and spare parts. And it is a fixed-price-award-fee, firm-fixed-price, cost-plus-fixed-fee, time-and-materials and cost-reimbursement-no-fee contract.

In another press release, the Department of Defense (DoD) stated that the "contract is funded with research, development, test and evaluation appropriation for fiscal 2020; and procurement appropriation for fiscal 2018, 2019 and 2020. The under-secretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment determined requirements of Title 10, U.S. Code 2371b (d) were met and approved the use of the authority of Section 2371b as essential to meet critical national security objectives. USSOCOM, Tampa, Florida, is the contracting activity."

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